Friday, January 06, 2006


Go to De Gans

The Belgian province of Oost-Vlaanderen boasts several world-class beer cafés, and together with De Heeren van Liedekercke at the very top is De Gans (pronounced by the locals more like Hans) .

The name means The Goose, something you will understand from the café decorations, including the menu, as seen on the picture. (Or rather menus, as there is also an extra, on-request speciality beer menu featuring aged beers, not an uncommon practice in many Belgian beer cafés). The address is Kloosterstraat no 40 in the village of Huise, and Gansstraat is just nearby.

The mystery of The Goose for many beer tourists seems to be how to get there without driving. Situated in the countryside in the middle of what is know rather ambitiously as the Flemish Ardennes, public transport is not immediately evident. But there is a solution, and it is a very pleasant one as well. Where the Flemish bus company De Lijn does not offer fixed bus lines, they have an excellent service called the Belbus. Bellen means to call in Dutch, and you have to call ahead at least two hours in advance, though more is recommended, to book seats between two bus stops. For Oost-Vlaanderen the phone no is (09) 210.94.94, and the belbus stop you want is De Oude Smisse in Huise (Zingem)- it is on Belbus line no 85 Zingem- Oudenaarde. It is very convenient to make Oudenaarde station your starting and ending point because the belbus is set up to correspond with the train service there. The operator, who normally speaks English well, will tell you when you have to be at the bus stops. The bus stop De Oude Smisse is less than 100 metres away from the De Gans.

The drivers of the mini buses are very chatty- making the 15-20 minute trip, the time depending on where the other passengers are going, a pure pleasure.

In other words, an appropriate introduction and ending to a visit at De Gans. The café has been run by the couple Ingrid and Hein for 24 years (almost as long as legendary Kulminator, which has been around for 26 years at their present location in Antwerpen). It is only open Fridays from 6 pm, Saturdays from 4 pm and most of Sunday. Note that they close for a fortnight in summer- call ahead, they are, of course, described in the Beer Bible. (I did not call ahead last summer and ended up with just a pleasant belbus roundtrip of the Flemish Ardennes!)

350 different beers, some of them quite rare, as well as decent snacks like pancakes are on offer. There is an open log fire inside the cosy café, and I will come back to its beery application in a later post. Ingrid and Hein are an enthusiastic and genuinely friendly couple, making it hard to leave for your belbus appointment. Yet with the belbus available, you would be a goose to ignore this great café!

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